Sox's Beckett notches MLB-best 14th win
Ace righty gets plenty of support as Lowell, Bay both homer
BOSTON -- The offense that abandoned them in the Bronx has resurfaced in a big way at Fenway Park this week, giving the Red Sox their groove back and perhaps allowing some fans to take their finger off the proverbial panic button.
Ace Josh Beckett, in yet another sparkling performance, had plenty of support in an 8-2 victory over the Tigers on Wednesday.
Without cleanup man Kevin Youkilis, who started his five-game suspension, the Red Sox -- who will try to complete a four-game sweep of the Tigers on Thursday -- had plenty of hitters pick up the slack.
Mike Lowell bashed his third homer in two nights. Jason Bay (3-for-3, two doubles) went deep for the third consecutive contest.
"Mikey Lowell, with some intermittent starts, has really swung the bat well," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "Jason Bay looks like he's trying to get hot again, and that's very welcome. When Jason gets hot, you can see it's not just singles. He starts driving the ball all over the ballpark, and what a different team we look like."
Beckett, meanwhile, gave up just three hits and two runs over seven innings, walking one and striking out six. The right-hander racked up his Major League-leading 14th win and lowered his ERA to 3.10.
"Those days where Josh is pitching, you really feel like you have a chance sometimes if you only get one run," said Bay. "That's the way he's been going. Save two, maybe three starts early on, he's been unbelievable. It's a blast to play behind him. He has Cy Young stuff. Every team needs that guy -- that stopper, that ace. Right now, he's that and then some."
At Fenway, Beckett has been automatic, going 8-0 with a 2.58 ERA in 11 starts. Overall, he has allowed three earned runs or less in 15 of his past 18 starts, going 12-2 with a 2.17 ERA in that span. How locked in has Beckett been over those 18 starts? He has walked 26 while striking out 114.
Is this the best run of Beckett's career?
"I try not to look back, I try not to look forward," said Beckett. "I just go one pitch at a time when I'm out there and one day at a time in between starts. I just try to keep it that simple, I really do. If you get too far ahead of yourself thinking about the results, it corrupts the process, and I think the process is what's making me successful right now and I just want to continue to do that."
While Beckett (14-4) went virtually untouched over the first four innings -- he allowed just a walk over that span -- the Red Sox were en route to their third straight performance of five runs or more.
How did this same Red Sox team go 31 innings without a run during that four-game sweep in New York?
"Sometimes this game can confound you a little bit," said Francona. "The important thing is that we are taking better swings. I know the guy we're facing tomorrow [Justin Verlander] is going to have a lot to say about it, but it's certainly a better feeling."
The Yankees keep winning, so the Red Sox (65-48) remain in a 5 1/2-game hole in the American League East. Boston leads the Rangers by 1 1/2 games in the Wild Card standings.
In this one, the Sox led nearly all the way. Lowell ripped one over the Green Monster to make it 1-0 in the bottom of the second. Bay, who is starting to get hot again after a prolonged funk, smashed a two-run Monster blast of his own to boost the lead to 3-0 in the third.
"There's streakiness, and I guess this would be defined as that," said Bay. "It's only been three games, but I feel a lot better. I feel much more comfortable in the box. When you're not comfortable, you're searching and trying to move your feet a little bit. You're trying this, you're trying that. You're trying to find the magical little tweak because most of the time it's nothing major. Now I'm just letting it come to me and reacting."
The Tigers' first hit against Beckett was a long one, as Carlos Guillen unloaded for a solo shot to right to open the fifth.
But no sooner had Detroit (59-54) chipped into the lead than the Red Sox opened it right back up again. They erupted for a five-spot in the bottom of the fifth. Lowell (infield RBI single), Casey Kotchman (RBI single) and Jason Varitek (bases-loaded walk) accounted for some of the damage.
With a seven-run cushion, Beckett then put it in cruise control.
"It's huge when you can rely on a guy to do that, especially where it gives us a chance to set up our bullpen for matchups," said Varitek.
Hideki Okajima pitched a perfect eighth, striking out two, and Ramon Ramirez did the exact same thing in the ninth.
Suddenly, the Red Sox are feeling a lot better about themselves.
"It's nice being home and to start getting those timely hits," said Beckett. "Two-out runs are demoralizing for the other team."
Probably not as demoralizing, however, as facing Beckett.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.